Comet Catalina was cruising past M101 in the sky last night, so I had to take a shot at it. Of course, that proximity is an illusion. Catalina was still closer to Earth than the sun is, right around 6 light minutes. The bright pair of stars at the top right corner are Mizar and Alcor, which look like one star to the naked eye (unless you have really sharp vision), are 78.4 and 80.9 light years away, respectively. Mizar is the second star in the handle of the big dipper. M101, the face-on spiral galaxy near the top left, on the other hand, is almost 20.9 million light years away.
Click on the image to see an animation of the comet moving through the area. The three frame animation covers less than two and a half hours. The field of view is about 6.5 degrees wide, or 7 times the width of a full Moon.
This is the 5th Comet Lovejoy, currently en route to the Sun. This is a very difficult object to shoot, so I’ll give myself a “not terrible for an amateur” grade for it. I can’t touch the quality and detail you can find on APOD, but I did manage to catch 6 or 7 degrees of the tail of the comet. This is the best 11 exposures of 180 seconds at f/1.8 and ISO 400 on the 85mm lens. That is M45, the Pleiades in the upper right corner.
Now there’s somethin’ you don’t see everyday, Chauncey.
What’s that, Edgar?
A comet flying by a nebula.
That’s not a tail on the comet, it is actually three images of the comet over a 45 minute time span. The brightest of the three, to the right is actually a stack of 4 shots. Shots were taken at 4:45, 5:04, 5:17, 5:20, 5:23 and 5:27 a.m. MST.
Fighting a 53% illuminated moon and poofy clouds, those six exposures of 3 minutes each were the only good shots out of an 80 minute window of opportunity. Shots were taken with a Canon 400mm lens at f/5.6 and ISO 1600.
Farther away than ISON was that day, but way closer than Encke, Comet Lovejoy was the first of three comets I shot just before dawn on Nov 17, 2013, and highest in the sky of the three, so it got the benefit of darker background. Combined from 6 images of 30 seconds each taken at f/2.8 and ISO 400 with the 200mm lens. Camera was mounted on a Vixen Polarie astrophotography mount.
When Comet ISON was making all the news, there were other comets visible in the pre-dawn sky. I thought I had missed this one completely, but it turns out I just didn’t have enough focal length to get a good view. I’ve drawn an arrow pointing to a little green dot which is Comet Encke.
Combined from 8 images of 30 seconds each taken at f/2.8 and ISO 200 with the 200mm lens. Camera was mounted on a Vixen Polarie astrophotography mount. Shots taken just before dawn on Nov 17, 2013.